Credit: Derek Jepsen

Is it just me, or do you often walk out of a significantly bankrolled (and
thus terribly important) Shakespeare production, one over which a
preponderance of critics has raved, and think to yourself,

What on earth was all that? Did those actors understand anything they
were saying? Who told them to get perpetually worked up over
everything? And for God’s sake, why did no one on that stage remind me
of anyone I might encounter in real life?

After 30-plus years covering the local performance scene, where
Shakespeare’s plays are rendered humorless and incomprehensible with
dispiriting regularity, I should dread the Bard by now. Then along come
scrappy little troupes like the Arc Theatre, who treat Shakespeare’s texts
as scripts to be played rather than masterworks to be exalted. Everything
in the Arc’s decidedly low-budget outdoor summer productions, plunked down
on an unforgiving patch of concrete in Evanston’s Ridgeville Park, operates
on a recognizably human scale, the actors making effortless sense of
intricate Elizabethan language. Even without amplification, amid the
acoustic clutter of traffic, airplanes, and children, everything is
astonishingly clear.

And astonishingly fun this year, as director Mark Boergers transplants this
shameless crowd-pleaser (an excuse to revive the drunk, overweight lech Sir
John Falstaff from the Henry plays) to the Windsor Country Club, where idle
white people have nothing better to do than scheme their ways in and out of
love. It’s regularly laugh-out-loud funny, especially when Teddy Boone as
jealous Master Ford displays his noteworthy comedic chops.   v